Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged Published Works

Edge: Graphical Improvements Coming to Halo 3

Since Microsoft launched the beta for Halo 3 two weeks ago, some have murmured that the graphics are a bit, well, uninspiring, especially in comparison to Gears of War. Next-Gen spoke to Bungie about this perception.

Bungie’s Frank O’Connor talked about the public’s reception to the beta and any changes in the game in the months between now and launch on September 25. He said, “Well to be honest, we’ve seen them [the graphics] praised too. Multiplayer is by necessity a more sterile iteration of our graphical style and will always be tuned for performance and elegance rather than jamming the screen full of pixels. We think that the final aesthetic look of our game will be judged at launch in September and in part based on the more intense single player spaces. We’re also focused on maintaining the Halo character and atmosphere in our visual design – we’re competing with ourselves, and not simply trying to match the aesthetic of other games. We think that folks will be happy with Halo 3’s graphical polish come September.”

Continue reading at Edge…

GamePro: 7 Ways to Turn Around the PlayStation 3

You could view the current situation of the PS3 in one of two ways; either everything is going as planned and the geniuses at Sony are gifted with insane amounts of foresight, or things could be better. Being that Sony appears a little bit, shall we say, defensive about the whole ordeal, we suspect the latter. So assuming Sony still wants to appeal to the mass market, here are seven ways the company can turnaround the PS3 in the shortest amount of time. Behold our armchair quarterback skills!

Continue reading at GamePro…

GamePro: The Toughest Job in Video Games

However justified, Sony has been fiercely criticized for both its approach and management of the PlayStation 3 to this point. The company just posted its biggest quarterly loss in four years shortly after dealing with several public relation mishaps related to the PS3. Just listen to these colorful quotes by former PlayStation boss Ken Kutaragi when describing the PS3: “It’s probably too cheap,” “It’s 4D,” and “[We want] consumers to think… ‘I will work more hours to buy one.'”

Not very endearing, huh? So who’s in charge of helping gamers see beyond such rogue statements? None other than Sony’s senior director of corporate communications, Dave Karraker. Karraker, who is just eight months on the job, has perhaps the toughest job in video games; helping consumers regard the PS3 with as much esteem as the record-setting PS2 despite the former’s high price and somewhat slower start. We sit down with the man to ask how he’s coping with being the public face of Sony.

Continue reading at GamePro…

Edge: Why are there so many World War II games?

Out of all the period games that could be made, a lopsided majority end up being about World War II. In the 2006 calendar year alone, a whopping 23 World War II-themed games (including special editions) were released at an average of two titles per month. Unthinkable? There’s a reason.

“Throughout history, one of the most incredible tests, is the test of a soldier,” says Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford. “From shield and spear to tanks and battleships, war and soldiering is one of the most interesting human experiences. Thus, it is one of the strongest human fantasies.”

If being a soldier then is what Pitchford calls a “core fantasy” of gamers, what better backdrop for a soldier than World War II?

Continue reading at Edge…

You Don’t Know Jack About Viral Marketing

Viral marketing goes by several different names — buzz marketing, disruptive marketing, guerilla marketing, annuity effect, long tail, media leverage and even word-of-mouth marketing. But adding the word “marketing” to viral or any of the aforementioned names is a bit of a misnomer as the act of marketing typically describes a direct and conscious act on the part of companies to pitch their products to consumers. Viral marketing is anything but conscious. It is indirect marketing managed by consumers and consumers alone.

By definition, viral marketing is a phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message, usually — though not exclusively — online. Like a literal virus, the product message gets passed along from one user to the next and is easily shared in rapid fashion. Hotmail’s mandatory “Get your private, free e-mail at Hotmail.com” message on every outgoing e-mail is widely accredited as the first viral marketing campaign. Its strategy included:

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GigaOM: Will Halo 3 help Microsoft secure the Digital Living Room?

The latest skirmish in the console wars took place this weekend, at the Mission District’s ultra-hip Foreign Cinema. That’s where Microsoft offered the gaming media a hands-on media preview of Halo 3, one of gaming’s most anticipated titles— and the company’s bid to expand their broadband audience.

Make no mistake about it, though the PS3 trails far behind and the Wii isn’t a direct competitor, the 360’s position as the HDTV-powered next gen champ is far from assured. The console has sold 10 million units to date since first launching 18 months ago, and claims six million online members to its Live service. It is hard to say how many of those are paying members, and how many are part of trial or some giveaway.

Continue reading at GigaOM…

GamePro: Predicting Next-Gen Console Sales With Last-Gen Numbers

You can learn a lot from the past. Gauging the current state of the console wars is no different; historical context can be enormously helpful. In this article, our goal is simple: to predict the commercial victors of the next-gen console war.

But how? Easy: by comparing the sales of the last-gen consoles — the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube — to the current crop of next-gen consoles using a concept called “sales velocity”. Sales velocity is just a fancy name for how fast (or slow) something sells over a period of time. In this case we’ll examine the launch numbers and examine the complete last-gen sales cycle. And even though the data is U.S. only, what bodes well here generally bodes well globally and vice-versa (with the occasional exception, such as the PC Engine’s monstrous success in Japan).

First up, Last-Gen Sales Velocity in terms of the first five months of launch:

Continue reading at GamePro…

Why video game dialogue is so cheesy

Those who know me well know I like video games. I don’t get to play them as much as I’d like to, but I do have the opportunity to write about them as a freelancer. So why is video game dialogue so cheesy? Why do I get embarrassed sometimes when my wife comes in the room only to find me suffering garbage line reading and poor scripts to get to the action? This is something of a pet-peeve for me as a hobbyist and something I recently wrote a feature on. From the article:

“The once fledgling video game industry with its minuscule budgets forced early game makers to wear several different hats, including storytelling ones even if they didn’t have prior experience. “When video games began, particularly on the PC, they were made by one, two, and three-person teams,” says Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal, a vocal proponent against amateur game dialogue. “Very few of these people had professional writing experience.”

As gaming grew to more than $14 billion a year, its storytelling failed to grow up with it. You can read the full article on Edge.

GamePro: 8 reasons the Xbox 360 Elite isn’t “elite”

On April 29, Microsoft will release their third flavor of 360 ice cream — the black Xbox 360 Elite. Let’s not be coy; the reason in adding a third, more expensive 360 is solely due to the existence of the $600 PS3. Since the inception of game consoles, prices have traditionally dropped with age, not increased. But If Sony can sell 3 million “supercomputers” in five months, why can’t Microsoft?

The Elite was largely criticized when it was announced last month and still is today. So at the dawning of its release, GamePro presents eight reasons why the Xbox 360 version 2.0 is anything but elite.

Continue reading at GamePro…

GigaOM: China Limits Online Gaming Hours

The Chinese government will begin regulating the number of hours that minors spend playing online games starting April 15. The new law requires national game providers to install anti-addiction software that warns under-18 gamers when they have played longer than three hours a day, what the government considers a “healthy” level.

Gamers that continue to play above the three-hour mark will only receive half the normal points up to five hours. After the five-hour mark, players receive zero points in addition to an annoying message every 15 minutes that reads: “You have entered unhealthy game time, please go offline immediately to rest. If you do not, your health will be damaged and your points will be cut to zero.”

Keeping in mind I’m no World Of Warcraft player, the “three hours a day will keep the doctor away” system seems generous, especially for youngsters. My democratic roots from an American upbringing, however, take issue with the whole government mandate thing. It just doesn’t feel right.

Continue reading at GigaOM…

GamePro: The Real Reason Behind Game Delays

Game development, like any software development, is an immensely intricate process. Given its temperamental nature, delays are inevitable — it just comes with the territory. Sometimes, game developers delay a game’s release in order to enhance the gameplay or polish the presentation, frustrating original release dates in the process.

“Typically, development teams delay games because they want to add an extra feature or spend more time on a specific aspect to get it just right,” says Dave Karraker, senior director of communications at Sony Computer Entertainment of America. “You need to remember that at the end of the day, the developer is truly an artist and their name is on that final product,” Karraker continues. “They will take every opportunity to get just a little more time to make the game as great as it possibly can be.”

But even though quality is a major reason for game delays, it’s far from the only reason. “Delays occur for both strategic and quality reasons,” says analyst Michael Pachter. Contrary to what you may think, publishers are just as as likely to delay a game for strategic reasons as they are quality ones.

Continue reading at GamePro…

GigaOM: 5 Reasons the New Mario and Sonic Partnership Doesn’t Really Matter

Former rivals Nintendo and Sega announced today a mashup title featuring the largest two franchise characters in video game history. Mario and Sonic At the Olympic Games will exclusively ship for Nintendo’s DS and Wii platforms later this year preparatory for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Granted, cross-promotional games like Square/Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and Lego Star Wars have sold well in the past, but here are five reasons why the announcement doesn’t really matter.

Continue reading at GigaOM…

GigaOM: PS3 selling “slightly faster” than 360 during same period

According to Digital Spy, market research firm NPD says the PS3 is selling marginally better in its first four months than the 360 did for the same period. “Figures show that the PS3 is selling slightly faster in the US than the Xbox 360 did at the same stage in its release,” an NPD spokesman told the UK publication. The news comes amid a lackluster PS3 launch across most of Europe last week.

Continue reading at GigaOM…

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GigaOM: PlayStation 2 still going the distance

While the PS3 is still learning to crawl, its older brother is running marathons. Like 115 million unit marathons perhaps close to 130 million when it’s all said and done. Despite avoiding specifics, Sony’s Phil Harrison told CNN/Money yesterday that his company would be raising its PS2 sales targets above the already projected 13 million for 2007. If a reality, that means the would-be seven year old console would have sold more in its last year than Microsoft’s 360 did in its first.

Continue reading at GigaOM…

Business Week: You’re Controlling Games, Too

Time magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year was “you.” Not because you’re special, but because of your collective ability to readily produce, publish, and share content with others. It’s called user-generated content, and it’s slowly starting to creep into console video games.

While user-generated game content is no stranger to PCs, it’s clearly in its infancy; especially on consoles.

Wikipedia fittingly describes user-generated content as “various kinds of media content that is produced or primarily influenced by end-users as opposed to traditional media producers, licensed broadcasters, and production companies.”

Continue reading on Bloomberg…

Joystiq: TIME magazine deems PS3 a bust

TIME magazine rounds up the five “phenomena” on the year that captivated the media momentarily before ultimately going bust on the hype. The PS3 shares the not-so spotlight next to Bode Miller, Studio 60, Fox TV’s canceled If I Did It program, and Snakes on a Plane as the year’s biggest letdowns according to the magazine.

From the article’s sub-section entitled HOW TO BLOW A HUGE LEAD in video games: “The PS3 is hideously expensive–it goes for up to $600–and Sony manufactured only a piddling few hundred thousand for the U.S., fewer for Japan. Plus it’s hard to write games for; the launch titles were lame. You know you’re in trouble when you get beat by something called a Wii.” Sony would have to try really hard to get anymore negative press for the PS3, not to mention other facets of the company’s endeavors. Can an electronics brotha get a break? Maybe a slight one if we didn’t run this story…

Continue reading at Joystiq…